A London police detective was found guilty of misconduct in public office for trying to sell information about an early phone-hacking probe to News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid in 2010.
April Casburn, 53, was the first suspect to go on trial since police began investigating corrupt payments by the News of the World and News Corp.’s other U.K. tabloid, the Sun. The verdict was handed down by a jury in London today.
Casburn “sought to leak details of a case to the very newspaper under investigation,” Greg McGill, a senior lawyer with the Crown Prosecution Service, said in a statement. “This is a very serious offense and the jury has today agreed” the police officer’s actions were criminal.
Casburn, a detective chief inspector with the Metropolitan Police Service, was one of dozens of people arrested in the bribery investigation, including Sun journalists, prison workers, members of the military and Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp. (NWSA)’s U.K. unit.
Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp., closed the News of the World in July 2011 to help quell public anger over the phone-hacking scandal. The affairs have cost the New York-based company at least $315 million in civil settlements with victims, legal fees and other costs.
Casburn’s case involves “a substantial breach of trust,” Judge Adrian Fulford said after the 12-person jury issued the verdict. He delayed sentencing for about three weeks, until he receives additional information from a social worker about Casburn’s three-year-old adopted child.
Casburn, who is free on bail, ignored reporters as she left Southwark Crown Court alone near London’s Tower Bridge.
The bribery probe was triggered by evidence of corrupt payments found through searches of computers during the phone- hacking investigation. In Casburn’s case, police uncovered an internal News of the World e-mail describing an unsolicited phone call she made to the tabloid on Sept. 11, 2010, offering to sell information about a phone-hacking case.
Casburn, who oversaw a team of officers investigating terror financing, said she made the call because she was angry counter-terrorism resources were being redirected to probe hacking allegations. She said she didn’t ask for money and that the person who took the call misunderstood. The News of the World didn’t use the information she offered and didn’t pay her.
Prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron said during the trial that Casburn’s decision to call the newspaper at the center of the phone-hacking scandal, instead of a competing publication, undermined her claim the tip was altruistic.
The most prominent people charged in the bribery probe are Brooks and Andy Coulson, who edited the News of the World and later became the chief press officer for Prime Minister David Cameron. No trial date has been set on those charges.
Brooks is accused of paying 100,000 pounds ($161,000) to a defense ministry employee, while Coulson allegedly swapped cash for a royal family phone directory. Two other journalists and the defense employee were also charged in the case.
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